By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Denver at-large Councilman Doug Linkhart yesterday became the fifth candidate to file paperwork to run for mayor of Denver, stating that as mayor he would re-evaluate Denver police leadership following a string of police brutality, criminal and disciplinary incidents facing the Department of Safety.
Linkhart’s run for mayor is contingent on Democrat Mayor John Hickenlooper’s bid for governor, he said. Linkhart, a Democrat, would not run against Hickenlooper for mayor in May 2011 if Hickenlooper loses his bid for governor and decides to seek a third term as mayor, he said.
Up until recently, Hickenlooper was considered a shoo-in for governor after popular conservative Tom Tancredo entered the race as a third-party candidate, a move that political pundits said would surely split the Republican party, handing victory to Hickenlooper. But a lackluster and scandal-plagued campaign by Republican challenger Dan Maes has helped Tancredo to catch up to Hickenlooper in the polls. The most recent Rasmussen poll places Tancredo and Hickenlooper in a statistical dead heat, with Tancredo trailing Hickenlooper by only four points.
Linkhart becomes the fifth candidate to file paperwork to run for mayor of Denver. He joins founding chief executive of the Denver Preschool Program, James Mejia, as well as lesser known candidates Dwight Henson, Michael Forester and Kenneth Simpson.
Also considering bids for mayor is State Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, City Councilman Michael Hancock, City Councilwoman Carol Boigon, former Sen. Penfield Tate, D-Denver, and Walter Isenberg, president and chief executive of Sage Hospitality Resources. None of those candidates have filed paperwork yet.
Linkhart said yesterday that he would have to raise questions about Police Chief Whitman’s role with the city following a string of police brutality, criminal and disciplinary incidents facing the Department of Safety.
The most recent incident involved the arrest on Monday of four-year police veteran Hector Paez, 31, who was charged yesterday with crimes related to allegations of coercing a woman into performing a sexual act on him in exchange for not being taken to jail. Paez is scheduled to appear in Denver County Court on Friday for formal advisement of the charges against him.
Paez is the second law enforcement officer from Denver this month to be arrested. A deputy sheriff was arrested earlier this month for allegedly sexually assaulting at least two children. Deputy Sheriff Mark Davis, 48, was arrested in downtown Denver on Oct. 3 for allegedly sexually assaulting at least two children in the Montbello neighborhood.
The incidents come as the Department of Safety is defending itself against several allegations against law enforcement. District Attorney Mitch Morrissey recently cleared five sheriff’s deputies in the in-custody homicide of a homeless man, though family members and community leaders remain outraged over the incident.
Also, Manager of Safety Ron Perea resigned in August after outrage erupted over his not firing two Denver police officers caught on tape beating a 23-year-old gay man in downtown Denver. Mayor John Hickenlooper has asked the FBI to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged beating. Denver police have re-opened their investigation into the incident. The city has paid nearly $6.2 million since 2004 to settle lawsuits involving police officers, according to a report last month by the city attorney’s office. Almost all of the lawsuits involved allegations of police brutality.
Linkhart said it may be necessary to evaluate concerns from the top down.
“We need a strong police department that has integrity that people can trust, and I think for the most part we do,” he said. “We have a good discipline policy that probably needs a few tweaks, and we need a strong Manager of Safety who has the courage to take the right action.”
Linkhart acknowledged that the city has issues with its current police disciplinary policy and that the city is paying an exorbitant amount of money to settle lawsuits.
“We could be avoiding (these lawsuits) if we can get a better culture within the police department, a better discipline policy,” he said.
Hickenlooper has said that he will avoid an expensive special election for the city by staying on as mayor through the general election, rather than resigning his seat to campaign.
City charter states that if a mayoral vacancy occurs within 160 days of a scheduled election, the deputy mayor serves as mayor until the next election. Hickenlooper can resign his seat up to his swearing-in date in January 2011, sparing the city from having to hold a special election. The deputy mayor would serve until the next election in May 2011.
Linkhart yesterday also echoed comments he made to the Denver Daily News back in August when he discussed why he would want to run for mayor. He spoke of wanting to balance the city’s budget by cutting back on jail spending and focusing on investments in children and intervention programs that keep people out of jail and away from drugs and alcohol. As mayor he would expand investments in crime prevention and alternatives to cut back on the need for other planned jail expansions.
Linkhart is no stranger to politics. Prior to his current tenure on City Council, he served for eight years in the State Senate and two years in the House.
He said yesterday that it is not premature for him to file his paperwork before the city learns of Hickenlooper’s fate running for governor.
“I want to be honest about my intentions and straight forward, and not play games,” said Linkhart. “I want to run for mayor. I want to be the mayor, and so it’s best just to file and get it underway.”